Imagine if a female sports presenter naturally beautiful and dressed up for a luxurious occasion has the opportunity, the honour, of asking a legendary footballer one question upon him making history and winning a prestigious trophy.
Of all the questions in the world she could ask just one and this unbelievably skilled footballer in-front of her has a lifetime of stories to give.
Imagine if she took that opportunity to ignore his achievements, ignore the gravitas of the occasion, omit his personal opinions and instead she just asked him if he could twerk!
I suspect twitter would be awash with ‘Women don’t understand sport’, ‘Who gave a woman a microphone?’ and ‘Get her back in the kitchen’ - I suspect she would never work again.
Now imagine if a man did this to a female footballer - Oh wait, you don’t have to, because on Monday night at the prestigious Ballon D’Or awards radio DJ Martin Solveig asked Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg, upon winning the first female Ballon D’Or award, if she would twerk . He was met with a stern NO.
Kyle Walker slammed over tweet for poking fun at Ballon d'Or sexism row
What happened on Monday should never have happened. It was a stark reminder that sexism is alive and thriving in the highest levels of the sport and broadcast industries. It’s so rife that an adult male felt completely comfortable asking this obscene question in front of a live audience globally and didn’t have a clue he was wrong. His weak apology suggests he still doesn’t quite understand.
For the record, and I feel this needs to be noted, Mbappe danced a little bit on stage. It was a slightly awkward, chilling in a night club style hand movements, feet firmly planted still. Hegerberg was asked if she would twerk, Miley Cyrus / Rihanna style. A dance move that mimics sex and sees you grinding. It’s NOT the same as asking Mbappe to dance.
I’ve been working in the male dominated industries for a long time. In both the football and the combat sports world where the levels of testosterone far surpass that of standard broadcast. I regularly travel the globe with ten or more all male crew and I become far too over excited when on a rare occasion I discover we have a female runner on the team. It shouldn’t be that exceptional.
Ada Hegerberg reveals what Martin Solveig said to her after 'twerk' remarks
I see prejudice in the industry every day. I’ve heard the most shocking of sentences from mouths of people I looked up to, fathers of girls, and it breaks my heart daily.
“She only got this interview because she has t**s“ were the words of a co-host who, before that moment, I thought was a friend. He was bitter about me being chosen ahead of him to interview a particular footballer so he unashamedly, proudly in fact, exclaimed in front of me, the client and the broadcaster what he thought of the situation.
The brand politely reminded him that I was infact the only person in the room that spoke Portuguese and the football player was Brazilian. Despite a moment that would hugely embarrass any reasonable human my cohost didn’t accept a language barrier as a suitable reason and went on an epic sexist rant. I had to continue working with him for another two weeks.
Once I made the cardinal mistake of interviewing two footballers at the same time, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba. An incredible world exclusive as Zlatan re-signed for Manchester United and Paul Pogba promoted UEFA’s respect campaign. But something appeared to be more important than my guests, something I hadn’t thought of (I never in a million years would).
The thing is I’m quite petite and they are both very tall. This got the imaginations of every troll available as in-depth descriptions of what the players might have done to me post interview rolled in. They were graphic, sexist, brutal and en masse. I received rape threats and this wasn’t the first time. The vast amount of them triggered a call from YouTube to check I was OK.
The comments reached across all my social platforms and it left me fearful of the next shoot.
For a long time I questioned what I wore, how I stood and tried to be as cold to the interviewee as possible. Obviously it affected my work. Talking to someone with warmth and friendship naturally gives you a better interview. It wasn’t long before I found strength and went back to being me. Most presenters just quit. So when you hear people say there aren’t enough females in sport because they aren’t applying, that’s wrong. It’s because they’re being forced to give up - we’re being bullied down by sexism. Only a few keep going.
In 2017 alongside Idris Elba I hosted the Fifa Best awards. An awards where Barcelona midfielder Leike Martens won the women’s trophy. What happened at Ballon D’Or would never have happened at The Best Fifa Football awards, Why? Because in the gallery, in my ear, the voice in Idris Elba’s ear was... a woman
The production crew was a forward thinking one where not only equality matters but varied and brilliant staff matter. There were men and women equally across all aspects of production. And that’s the simple answer. We need more women to be part of the conversation, more female script writers, producers, directors, more women everywhere.
Hire more women and your company can grow whilst avoiding the embarrassment Ballon D’Or must be feeling today.
Put women on the main stage and ask yourself, would a woman have asked Hegerberg to twerk?